What would a mermaid carry in her purse? If you’re thinking pearls and pretty shells, well, we have some bad news. Try shark eggs.
We’re of course not actually talking about mythical fish-people accessories, but the egg cases of sharks, skates, and chimaeras (or chondrichthyes, if you’re fancy). These leathery, usually black or dark brown pouches can be found washed up on beaches the world over and, to the untrained eye, can look like weird, alien artifacts. They’re commonly called “mermaids’ purses,” or, less optimistically, “devils’ purses.” They’re also very rarely referred to as “skakets.”
To be fair, they’re not all shark egg capsules. Some of them, like these with the four prongs, come from skates.
They look a bit frightening, but they’re just made of collagen protein, and they’re actually soft and leathery.
When not full of eggs, their centers are hollow and full of air.
If you find one on the beach and it is empty, you’ll probably see a tear in one side. This is where the babies swam out! And because they’re lightweight, they get tossed up on shore all the time.
Sure, they look a little menacing, but they’re just evidence of new ocean babies!
Egg cases also come in some other amazing shapes.
These are the egg cases of a horn shark. These were seen in an aquarium. Their spiral shape allows the cases to wedge themselves into the sand or into rock crevices, thus anchoring them down and keeping them stationary and safe.
They almost look fake!
Or like evil pasta.
Either way, they’re pretty nifty, and finding one on the beach is even cooler than finding a shell!
The next time you’re on a beach and find a mysterious, black bubble of an object, don’t freak out! It’s not a hideous mutant creature and it’s not a dangerous substance — it’s the former home of a baby shark. And if you don’t like sharks, consider yourself lucky that you’re only finding the egg case.